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The "Rule of Three" For Confronting Evil

One of the most straightforward is found in James 4:7: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Bible teachers point out, quite accurately, that we are inclined to forget the "submit yourselves to God" part, and then wonder why the devil doesn't seem to be fleeing. But the point that he does flee is a profound one. Evil is a coward. (Proverbs 28:1: "The wicked flee when no one pursues.") Evil cannot strengthen the will or confidence of those who are motivated by it. It is sentenced, in this age of grace, to flee from godly confrontation.

Interestingly, one of the most remarkable modern instances of that principle occurred in the political realm, when Ronald Reagan—alone among U.S. presidents—unabashedly identified the Soviet communist regime as "evil." He was right: the regime was evil. And against all the predictions of traditionalist Cold Warriors, the Soviet regime retreated in disorder when confronted for what it was, by a Western leader who understood the internal weakness of evil, and who had no fear of a future in which its deceptions were laid bare.

The fear of naming and repudiating evil robs us of many victories. But in naming it we must be precise, and obedient to God's instruction. As turmoil rises around us, we need to remember the words of Ephesians 6:12 (emphasis added):

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Identifying evil is not a process of calling out our fellow men, judging them, or cultivating indignation against them. Here I must part company with historian and cultural commentator Victor Davis Hanson (see link above), whom I admire greatly. The important thing to focus on is not the hypocrisy of politicians, but the evil their actions and policies visit on the people. Resenting our fellow men is the easiest of traps to fall into, and it robs us of vision and power. If the gospel of Christ were about focusing on the failings of other humans, it would be no better than the crassest secular ideology.

I predict we will need to hold onto that principle for dear life in the coming days. Our misguided countrymen are not the evil that haunts us. Foolishness, anger, and resentment can enslave anyone to evil—and so can sanctimony and pride. We can have certainty and assurance in the face of evil, but we cannot have pride. Pride will only dupe and weaken us: we are incompetent to confront evil in our own power, and ineligible to channel God's power when we are acting in pride and conceit.

As we prepare in our different ways to ward off evil in 2012, I believe we must not neglect to check our basic attitude about it. A simple mental exercise might be in order. When I was on active duty, I used the rubric of a "rule of three" to prepare the units under my leadership for responding to crises. Each person was to know his first three actions by rote, so that he could react immediately while setting his brain on what the ensuing tasks should be. For confronting the evil that may lie ahead of us, I propose this "rule of three" for Christians:

1) Remember that Jesus has already triumphed over evil. All the rest is a matter of administering the terms of the defeat, soul by soul.

2) Remember that evil is a coward, and flees when confronted in the power of the living God.

3) Remember that our spiritual battle is not against our fellow men.

The Evil One will do everything he can to deceive us on precisely these points. But we have what he doesn't: the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). That incorruptible mind is a never-failing guide to any attitude we may need to cultivate.

1/9/2012 5:00:00 AM